A study that show that the use of electronic health records (with built-in secure messaging capabilities) can reduce the number of office visits for patients that do not need them. Office visits are the most expensive form of health care delivery (as noted by the NYT). No mention of any usability issues, however.
Information about KP HealthConnect (the EHR examined in this study) can be found here.
From the abstract:
We examined the impact of implementing a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) system on ambulatory care use in an integrated health care delivery system with more than 225,000 members. Between 2004 and 2007, the annual age/sex-adjusted total office visit rate decreased 26.2 percent, the adjusted primary care office visit rate decreased 25.3 percent, and the adjusted specialty care office visit rate decreased 21.5 percent. Scheduled telephone visits increased more than eightfold, and secure e-mail messaging, which began in late 2005, increased nearly sixfold by 2007. Introducing an EHR creates operational efficiencies by offering nontraditional, patient-centered ways of providing care.
From the full text:
The 26.2 percent reduction in office visits indicates greater efficiency of care with an integrated EHR. With complete patient data available, unnecessary and marginally productive office visits are reduced or replaced with telephone visits and secure e-mail messaging supported by easy access to patients’ medical records. For example, doctors reported that the EHR enabled them to resolve patients’ health issues in the first contact or with fewer contacts. In sum, our study strongly suggests that an integrated and comprehensive EHR shifts the pattern of ambulatory care toward more-efficient contacts for patients and providers while at least maintaining quality of care and patient satisfaction.
[Ed: the post image is a generic EMR/EHR and is not the system examined in the study]